The 2019 Honda Insight is a strangely normal hybrid

The 2019 Honda Insight is a very normal-looking car, which is kind of strange. It’s a far cry from the 2000 edition, which was a tiny, two-seat, streamlined suppository with skirted rear wheels that was America’s first hybrid and is still the most efficient car without a plug to putter down her highways at 61 … Continue reading “The 2019 Honda Insight is a strangely normal hybrid”

The 2019 Honda Insight is a very normal-looking car, which is kind of strange.

It’s a far cry from the 2000 edition, which was a tiny, two-seat, streamlined suppository with skirted rear wheels that was America’s first hybrid and is still the most efficient car without a plug to putter down her highways at 61 mpg. (It’s EPA combined rating of 53 mpg was only surpassed last year.)

Sales were much lower than its fuel economy, however, with a high of just 4,700 in 2001. So the Insight was put on hiatus a couple of years later, but rebooted in 2009 as a four-door hatchback that looked like a bad copy of the Toyota Prius it was trying to be. Unfortunately, it arrived at a time when Honda was off its game, delivering cars with refinement far below what was expected of the brand. Popular in its Japanese homeland, not even a perfect storm of The Great Recession and the highest gas prices in a generation could turn it into a hit here. Honda put out of its misery at the ripe old age of five in 2014.

Since then, the Insight badges were left sitting on the shelf at American Honda as the Civic and Accord and CR-Z hybrids did their best to take on Toyota in the gas-electric space. Without much luck.

But now, staying true to its decade or so lifecycle, the Insight is back, and you’d never recognize it. It’s based on the platform of the Civic sedan, but has a more sophisticated style than its sibling and none of the visual quirks of its previous generations.

2019 Honda Insight (Honda)

The interior is even more distinct from the Civic and has a high-end feel. There are large puffy inserts in front of the passenger and on the doors, and the driver is treated to an instrument cluster that pairs an analog speedometer with a multi-functional digital display. As with the Civic, the Insight is spacious for a compact and has a low and wide stance.

2019 Honda Insight (Honda)

Priced at $23,725, the Insight falls between the similarly subdued $23,085 Hyundai Ioniq and odder-than-ever Toyota Prius at $24,395 in the hybrid price hierarchy. But its true position among them is tougher to peg.

The Insight’s ride quality is unsurpassed by any car at this price point, regardless of what’s under the hood. It’s smooth around town, composed in curves and sportier than most, if not exactly sporty. It’s also quiet, at least when it’s operating under pure electric power. Which is often, but not often enough.

2019 Honda Insight (Honda)

Honda uses an uncommon drivetrain layout that combines a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine with a unit comprised of a generator and electric drive motor. The motor draws its energy from the lithium-ion battery tucked inconspicuously under the rear seats until the charge gets too low, then summons the four-cylinder to crank the generator. As there isn’t a conventional transmission, there also isn’t any annoying vibration when the engine starts up as there is in most hybrids, which is a boon in stop and go traffic.

There is noise, however. Sometimes lots of it. The engine, which is a little gruff, sets itself at whatever rpm it deems necessary to meet the power demands and just sits there groaning. Going uphill, it’s as if you have your foot to the floor and need to change gears, but don’t. No hybrid is perfect in this regard, but the Insight isn’t even close.

It’s much better suited the Midwest than the mountains. On flat terrain, the engine is used less frequently and runs slower when it is. The payoff for any pain is at the pump. I hit 50 mpg in the top of the line Touring I tested, which has an EPA combined rating of 48 mpg, while lower trims are listed at 52 mpg. That’s short of the Prius and Ioniq, which max out at 56 mpg and 58 mpg, respectively, but both are less powerful than the 151 hp Insight.

2019 Honda Insight (Honda)

All Insight models are well-equipped, and even the EX comes with a standard safety package that includes automatic emergency brakes, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control, but without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. The mid-level LX gets those, along with the camera-based Lane Watch passenger blind spot monitor and a 60/40 rear seat pass-through to a large flat trunk made possible by the modern slim battery pack design. Leather upholstery, premium audio, heated seats and those automatic windshield wipers that I know you must have kick in with the Touring at a max price of $28,985.

You’ll spend thousands more on a loaded Ioniq or Prius, so the efficiency advantages are pretty much a wash for your wallet. You’ll have to decide about saving the planet, not to mention your hearing.

2019 Honda Insight

Base price: $23,725

As tested: $28,985

Type: 5-passenger, 4-door front-wheel-drive sedan

Engine: 1.5-liter 4-cylinder with electric motor

Power: 151 hp, 197 lb-ft

Transmission: Direct drive

MPG: 51-55 city/45-49 hwy

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

LA Auto Show: Honda Passport returns for 2019

LOS ANGELES – The Honda Passport has been renewed.

The dormant model name is making a comeback after 15 years on an all-new SUV that Honda says is its most adventurous one yet.

The 2019 Passport is essentially a two-row version of the latest 8-passenger Honda Pilot and features the same 280 hp V6 engine, 9-speed transmission and optional torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system as its big sister.

2019 Honda Passport with Accessory Roof Rack

But with 8.4 inches of ground clearance, the AWD Passport rides higher than the Pilot and has shorter overhangs at each end that improve its off-road capability some without ruining its manners on the street. It’s still not a rock crawler like a Jeep Grand Cherokee, but it should take you further down a rocky road than any Honda SUV before it.

2019 Honda Passport with Accessory Roof Rack, Running Boards, Fender Flares and Towing Hitch

The Passport comes standard with the Honda Sensing suite of active safety systems that includes automatic emergency brakes, self-steering lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. Front-wheel-drive Passports can tow 3,500 pounds while AWD models can be equipped with a towing package that increases the limit to 5,000 pounds.

2019 Honda Passport

The front cabin is nearly identical to the Pilot’s, but the Passport has an underfloor storage bin in the cargo area and its spare tire is mounted inside, instead of underneath the vehicle. A selection of accessories will be offered to further enhance its utility, like washable bins and a roof-mounted basket carrier.

2019 Honda Passport

The Passport is scheduled to arrive in showrooms early next year at a yet to be announced price, but expect it to land somewhere between the $25,000 CR-V and $32,000 Pilot. And while it could be seen as a replacement for the Accord, as more and more car buyers opt for SUVs, Honda Assistant Vice President of Product Planning Jay Joseph says the company expects it to add overall sales rather than cannibalize them from other models.

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Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

The 2019 Honda Insight is a strangely normal hybrid

The 2019 Honda Insight is a very normal-looking car, which is kind of strange.

It’s a far cry from the 2000 edition, which was a tiny, two-seat, streamlined suppository with skirted rear wheels that was America’s first hybrid and is still the most efficient car without a plug to putter down her highways at 61 mpg. (It’s EPA combined rating of 53 mpg was only surpassed last year.)

Sales were much lower than its fuel economy, however, with a high of just 4,700 in 2001. So the Insight was put on hiatus a couple of years later, but rebooted in 2009 as a four-door hatchback that looked like a bad copy of the Toyota Prius it was trying to be. Unfortunately, it arrived at a time when Honda was off its game, delivering cars with refinement far below what was expected of the brand. Popular in its Japanese homeland, not even a perfect storm of The Great Recession and the highest gas prices in a generation could turn it into a hit here. Honda put out of its misery at the ripe old age of five in 2014.

Since then, the Insight badges were left sitting on the shelf at American Honda as the Civic and Accord and CR-Z hybrids did their best to take on Toyota in the gas-electric space. Without much luck.

But now, staying true to its decade or so lifecycle, the Insight is back, and you’d never recognize it. It’s based on the platform of the Civic sedan, but has a more sophisticated style than its sibling and none of the visual quirks of its previous generations.

2019 Honda Insight (Honda)

The interior is even more distinct from the Civic and has a high-end feel. There are large puffy inserts in front of the passenger and on the doors, and the driver is treated to an instrument cluster that pairs an analog speedometer with a multi-functional digital display. As with the Civic, the Insight is spacious for a compact and has a low and wide stance.

2019 Honda Insight (Honda)

Priced at $23,725, the Insight falls between the similarly subdued $23,085 Hyundai Ioniq and odder-than-ever Toyota Prius at $24,395 in the hybrid price hierarchy. But its true position among them is tougher to peg.

The Insight’s ride quality is unsurpassed by any car at this price point, regardless of what’s under the hood. It’s smooth around town, composed in curves and sportier than most, if not exactly sporty. It’s also quiet, at least when it’s operating under pure electric power. Which is often, but not often enough.

2019 Honda Insight (Honda)

Honda uses an uncommon drivetrain layout that combines a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine with a unit comprised of a generator and electric drive motor. The motor draws its energy from the lithium-ion battery tucked inconspicuously under the rear seats until the charge gets too low, then summons the four-cylinder to crank the generator. As there isn’t a conventional transmission, there also isn’t any annoying vibration when the engine starts up as there is in most hybrids, which is a boon in stop and go traffic.

There is noise, however. Sometimes lots of it. The engine, which is a little gruff, sets itself at whatever rpm it deems necessary to meet the power demands and just sits there groaning. Going uphill, it’s as if you have your foot to the floor and need to change gears, but don’t. No hybrid is perfect in this regard, but the Insight isn’t even close.

It’s much better suited the Midwest than the mountains. On flat terrain, the engine is used less frequently and runs slower when it is. The payoff for any pain is at the pump. I hit 50 mpg in the top of the line Touring I tested, which has an EPA combined rating of 48 mpg, while lower trims are listed at 52 mpg. That’s short of the Prius and Ioniq, which max out at 56 mpg and 58 mpg, respectively, but both are less powerful than the 151 hp Insight.

2019 Honda Insight (Honda)

All Insight models are well-equipped, and even the EX comes with a standard safety package that includes automatic emergency brakes, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control, but without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. The mid-level LX gets those, along with the camera-based Lane Watch passenger blind spot monitor and a 60/40 rear seat pass-through to a large flat trunk made possible by the modern slim battery pack design. Leather upholstery, premium audio, heated seats and those automatic windshield wipers that I know you must have kick in with the Touring at a max price of $28,985.

You’ll spend thousands more on a loaded Ioniq or Prius, so the efficiency advantages are pretty much a wash for your wallet. You’ll have to decide about saving the planet, not to mention your hearing.

2019 Honda Insight

Base price: $23,725

As tested: $28,985

Type: 5-passenger, 4-door front-wheel-drive sedan

Engine: 1.5-liter 4-cylinder with electric motor

Power: 151 hp, 197 lb-ft

Transmission: Direct drive

MPG: 51-55 city/45-49 hwy

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

The 2019 Honda Insight is a strangely normal hybrid

The 2019 Honda Insight is a very normal-looking car, which is kind of strange.

It’s a far cry from the 2000 edition, which was a tiny, two-seat, streamlined suppository with skirted rear wheels that was America’s first hybrid and is still the most efficient car without a plug to putter down her highways at 61 mpg. (It’s EPA combined rating of 53 mpg was only surpassed last year.)

Sales were much lower than its fuel economy, however, with a high of just 4,700 in 2001. So the Insight was put on hiatus a couple of years later, but rebooted in 2009 as a four-door hatchback that looked like a bad copy of the Toyota Prius it was trying to be. Unfortunately, it arrived at a time when Honda was off its game, delivering cars with refinement far below what was expected of the brand. Popular in its Japanese homeland, not even a perfect storm of The Great Recession and the highest gas prices in a generation could turn it into a hit here. Honda put out of its misery at the ripe old age of five in 2014.

Since then, the Insight badges were left sitting on the shelf at American Honda as the Civic and Accord and CR-Z hybrids did their best to take on Toyota in the gas-electric space. Without much luck.

But now, staying true to its decade or so lifecycle, the Insight is back, and you’d never recognize it. It’s based on the platform of the Civic sedan, but has a more sophisticated style than its sibling and none of the visual quirks of its previous generations.

2019 Honda Insight (Honda)

The interior is even more distinct from the Civic and has a high-end feel. There are large puffy inserts in front of the passenger and on the doors, and the driver is treated to an instrument cluster that pairs an analog speedometer with a multi-functional digital display. As with the Civic, the Insight is spacious for a compact and has a low and wide stance.

2019 Honda Insight (Honda)

Priced at $23,725, the Insight falls between the similarly subdued $23,085 Hyundai Ioniq and odder-than-ever Toyota Prius at $24,395 in the hybrid price hierarchy. But its true position among them is tougher to peg.

The Insight’s ride quality is unsurpassed by any car at this price point, regardless of what’s under the hood. It’s smooth around town, composed in curves and sportier than most, if not exactly sporty. It’s also quiet, at least when it’s operating under pure electric power. Which is often, but not often enough.

2019 Honda Insight (Honda)

Honda uses an uncommon drivetrain layout that combines a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine with a unit comprised of a generator and electric drive motor. The motor draws its energy from the lithium-ion battery tucked inconspicuously under the rear seats until the charge gets too low, then summons the four-cylinder to crank the generator. As there isn’t a conventional transmission, there also isn’t any annoying vibration when the engine starts up as there is in most hybrids, which is a boon in stop and go traffic.

There is noise, however. Sometimes lots of it. The engine, which is a little gruff, sets itself at whatever rpm it deems necessary to meet the power demands and just sits there groaning. Going uphill, it’s as if you have your foot to the floor and need to change gears, but don’t. No hybrid is perfect in this regard, but the Insight isn’t even close.

It’s much better suited the Midwest than the mountains. On flat terrain, the engine is used less frequently and runs slower when it is. The payoff for any pain is at the pump. I hit 50 mpg in the top of the line Touring I tested, which has an EPA combined rating of 48 mpg, while lower trims are listed at 52 mpg. That’s short of the Prius and Ioniq, which max out at 56 mpg and 58 mpg, respectively, but both are less powerful than the 151 hp Insight.

2019 Honda Insight (Honda)

All Insight models are well-equipped, and even the EX comes with a standard safety package that includes automatic emergency brakes, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control, but without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. The mid-level LX gets those, along with the camera-based Lane Watch passenger blind spot monitor and a 60/40 rear seat pass-through to a large flat trunk made possible by the modern slim battery pack design. Leather upholstery, premium audio, heated seats and those automatic windshield wipers that I know you must have kick in with the Touring at a max price of $28,985.

You’ll spend thousands more on a loaded Ioniq or Prius, so the efficiency advantages are pretty much a wash for your wallet. You’ll have to decide about saving the planet, not to mention your hearing.

2019 Honda Insight

Base price: $23,725

As tested: $28,985

Type: 5-passenger, 4-door front-wheel-drive sedan

Engine: 1.5-liter 4-cylinder with electric motor

Power: 151 hp, 197 lb-ft

Transmission: Direct drive

MPG: 51-55 city/45-49 hwy

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.